Wednesday, February 21, 2007

When No Means No But It Should Mean Yes

I got an email today from an aspiring writer who happened upon In Between Men and loved it.

She asked if I ever got used to the rejections - apparently she read my story about how I almost didn't become an author. She wanted to know because her fear of "no" kept her from sitting down to write.

Unfortunately, yes, I have gotten used to people saying no. In fact, I'm slightly surprised when I get a yes!

It all began when I was in the School for Creative and Performing Arts at Chula Vista High School. We had to audition for every play and I sucked so bad that I always ended up as walking and talking scenery. But it never stopped me from trying for the roles with lines.

I finally got it but I only had one line and the nerves before each performance nearly killed me.

When I took my first screenwriting class, we had to pitch three ideas to the group and they decided which one you would write. I had do it again because the first three - none of which, thankfully, I can remember - wouldn't fly with the class.

It's not so much that I have this tough-as-rawhide skin. My writing teacher, Ben Masselink once told me, "The writer's skin has to be thick enough to withstand criticism but thin enough to take in the world around him."

Rather, I've learned not to take it personally and if a "no" stings, then there's a lesson in it somewhere. Either my idea doesn't have legs or it needs time to develop a pair; or its a matter of wrong person, wrong project, wrong time. When its the later, saying no to me is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. I'll take the hits but somehow, some way, I'll find the person who will say yes.

Have you had to keep going in spite of getting a no? Did you ever have to give up and change direction?

I wanna know!



Erica Orloff said...

I was once fired from a bank job (a brief stint, where I went to take a break from the abysmally low pay of working in publishing). I was in human resources, working for a BEAST of a woman, and a pinhead of a man--both executive VPs. The woman, I am fairly sure, was screwing her boss and it was a dysfunctional, sick, emotionally abusive place. When I was fired, it was because "I was too smart for my position and appeared bored." I was devastated. As a Type-A overachiever, this was AWFUL. Until my dad, in all his wisdom, said, "You're upset you got fired from a BANK? A soul-sucking 9 to 5 job? Get over it. It's the best thing that ever happened to you. Take it as an HONOR they fired you. Means you rattled some cages." It was the first time someone ever showed me to look at adversity in a totally radical way. Changed my life.

Dana Diamond said...

I never take it personally either.

Much as I would love me and my work to be universally accepted, I know it's just not gonna happen.

The diversity that makes things fun and different is the same diversity that makes it possible for a world where someone actually may not enjoy what I do. (Gasp!)

WhatEVER. I must hunt them down and...

Ahem! (Smoothing my hair.)

Diversity is good.


:) d

Unknown said...

When I read your comment Erica, my first thought was: what the hell she was doing in a bank?!? I guess life has a way of opening our eyes!

Dana, you have such a way with writing that I can always hear your voice in my head!


Erica Orloff said...

LOL! I had been at Simon & Schuster, as a lowly editor starting out, making PEANUTS. Not enough to pay rent on anything but a cockroach-infested place in Jersey City with crack vials in the alleyway. Yeah, you don't work in publishing starting out to make money. And I got almost three times my salary at the bank. But it was SOUL SUCKING!


Jennifer said...

Mary this is a great blog! You said it better than I could. I was rejected for eight years. I tried to give up many times, but I couldn't stop writing.

You know that phrase "fire in the belly?" I had, and still have that. I worked my but off to improve, and I stillstrive to be a better writer.

The "yes's" tend to surprise me too, LOL! Although I've had rejections that still surprise me too.

That's life. It should be a surprised sometimes!

Unknown said...

Hey Jen!

I know that "fire in the belly" feeling and it's a feeling that I still haven't lost.

That might be a future blog post some day...